How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu

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Suffering from the sniffles? Sore throat making your24 Zoom meetings a day hard to handle? You’re not alone. Every year, thousands of people suffer from winter’s biggest offender: the common cold. Worse yet, symptoms can be especially confusing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If you’ve woken up with an itchy throat, a tight chest, or a running nose- Don’t panic. First, identify your symptoms before you run to Web MD and panic yourself. 

sore throat

How are COVID-19 symptoms different from cold and flu symptoms? 

Let’s start where it matters most. COVID-19 and the flu share a few symptoms, and it’s important to ensure that you’re not COVID-19 positive. It’s also important to note that not every case of COVID-19 looks the same, meaning some will experience more intense symptoms than others. The most common COVID-19 symptoms can be found on the CDC’s website. That said, the flu is not typically accompanied by symptoms that are as severe as COVID-19.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re worried you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, seek a COVID-19 test right away. Do not minimize your symptoms, and try to follow social distancing practices while you seek a testing center. 

What’s the difference between “cold and flu symptoms”? 

A cold is a more mild case of respiratory irritation. It usually presents as a sore throat, runny nose, or congestion. Common colds will typically only last two to three days and can be treated at home without visiting a primary care physician. If your cold lasts longer than a week, you may need to visit the primary care doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics. 

The flu is a more severe ailment that can lead to pneumonia and other health complications. Unlike a cold, the flu strikes quickly with most people feeling symptoms suddenly. These symptoms are also more severe than the usual cold symptoms and may be accompanied by fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and more.  

How is treatment different for a cold vs flu? 

Most colds can be treated with rest and natural medicines like Biovanta, an over-the-counter natural cold medicine, and throat lozenges. These medicines may also help with flu symptoms but you may also need a doctor’s visit and a prescription. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for a persistent cold- but it’s rare that the common cold would land you in your doctor’s office as the recovery time is typically two to three days. 

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How can I prevent colds and flu? 

General health practices are the best defense against the common cold and the flu! Get back to basics. 

Wash your hands frequently and brush your teeth three times a day. Your mouth has a lot more to do with your day-to-day health than you may expect to think. Your tongue, teeth, gums, and throat all have a substantial impact on your general health. Though most of the bacteria are harmless, your mouth and hands serve as a one-way ticket to your respiratory and digestive system which means that when bad bacteria finds its way into your mouth, it’s finding its way into your body too. 

Get plenty of rest. Don’t cram a week of four four-hour nights and expect to stay healthy. Restful sleep is critical to your overall health in more ways than we can list in this article. Especially during cold and flu seasons, prioritize 8 hours of sleep on a consistent schedule. Last but certainly not least, consider your nutrition. You certainly don’t have to abandon every snack you once loved, but vegetables and fruits are packed full of tons and vitamins and minerals that help defend the body against colds and flu.